Forest Ranger Career Information and Education Requirements
Research forest ranger career information. Learn about the job description, education requirements and career prospects to make an informed decision about becoming a forest ranger.
Forest rangers are responsible for protecting and conserving natural resources, particularly in regards to forests and rangelands. They can work for federal agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture, or for state and local government agencies. Their responsibilities may range from the dangerous, such as fighting forest fires, to the administrative, such as managing compliance inspections.
Rangers are often the first responders to natural or manmade threats to forest areas and rangelands. They help to combat forest fires and perform search and rescue missions. They may also work to prevent harm by patrolling forest areas on foot or in vehicles, snowmobiles and ATVs. Additional duties may also include ensuring that individuals are in compliance with state laws in regards to hunting, fishing and camping; they also enforce those state laws.
Another aspect of a forest rangers job revolves around educating the public. Rangers may be called upon to speak with groups of adults and kids to teach them how to enjoy the forest without harming it or themselves. They may also speak in schools or with specific youth groups, such as the Boy Scouts of America.
Forest rangers are often required to have completed some type of postsecondary education. Some agencies look for rangers with a 4-year degree in a field such as forestry, while others will accept candidates who have an associate's degree along with professional experience in natural resource management. Coursework in a forestry degree program typically includes forest biology, forest measurement and inventory and renewable resource management.
Aspiring forest rangers can start out in forest technician positions before working their way up in the field. These basic technicians work in the wilderness to plant, analyze and improve timber stands, maintain facilities, repair trails, enforce regulations and suppress forest fires. Forest technicians also administer permits for special uses, deliver community education and collect data as required for environmental impact studies.
Salary and Job Outlook
In May 2012, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that forest technicians earned a median annual salary of $33,920, while foresters, including forest rangers, earned a median of $55,950. The BLS expects jobs for forest technicians to decrease 4% over the 2012-2022 decade, but jobs for foresters are projected to increase at a slower-than-average pace of 6% during this decade.
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